Company admits in settlement that claimant was in fact a worker to avoid having claim brought against it in the Central London Employment Tribunal.
Settlement follows two other legal victories by the IWGB in the sector and marks a major sea-change for the so-called “gig-economy”.
12 MAY: A courier company has admitted to have unlawfully employed one of its riders as an independent contractor rather than a worker and denying him holiday pay, in what is the first case of a employer in the so-called “gig-economy” admitting wrongdoing.
ECourier reached a settlement with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and Demille Flanore, a former courier at the company, thus avoiding a hearing at the employment tribunal. In the settlement the company “admits that during the Claimant’s engagement by the Respondent he was engaged as a worker”.
While independent contractors have no employment rights, workers are entitled to holiday pay and a guaranteed hourly minimum wage.
ECourier’s decision decision to settle rather than contest the claims at the tribunal signals a change of attitude among so-called “gig-economy” companies, which up to now have aggressively contested claims brought against them by their workers. Uber, Pimlico Plumbers and CitySprint have all appealed after losing similar cases at the employment tribunal.
The settlement was reached last week, with a confidentiality agreement expiring today.
“In our first courier case CitySprint lost with a bloody nose, in the second case Excel didn’t even bother to defend the claim and now ECourier has outright admitted to their unlawful behaviour,” said IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee. “We generously gave ECourier a week after settling this claim for them to work on their communications strategy and try and spin this case as some sort of anomaly. No doubt today they will be telling some fantastical story about how Demille worked unlike any other courier. Needless to say, this is nonsense and ECourier should immediately guarantee worker status to all of its couriers.”
IWGB Courier Branch founding member and claimant against CitySprint Maggie Dewhurst said: “The cruelty of the gig-economy is clear for all to see in Demille’s case. When he had an accident at work and broke his wrist he had to take time off with no holiday or sick pay. But his story represents only the tip of the iceberg of what it is like to work at ECourier. ”
Like in many other cases against so-called “gig-economy” companies the evidence was so overwhelmingly in favour of the claimant that it is surprising that the company did not immediately change its arrangements when the claim was brought on 22 March 2016.
The IWGB argued that Demille was a worker because, among other things:
He was instructed on what to do by a “controller”.
He was required to work exclusively for ECourier.
All jobs were booked by ECourier and allocated to him. ECourier also set the prices it charged its customers and what it would pay Demille.
As part of the Settlement ECourier has agreed to pay Demille holiday pay of £390 and the tribunal fees of £155.
“I’m very happy with this outcome. It is a step in the right direction for the courier industry and for people still working in it that want to take other cases to court,” said Demille Flanore. “I hope as a result of this people that come to the industry now will have more sustainability and better terms than we had.”
The IWGB will monitor how ECourier reacts to the outcome of this dispute and fully expects them to put everyone on worker contracts.
The IWGB simultaneously brought test cases against four courier companies – CitySprint, Excel, Ecourier and Addison Lee – on 22 March, 2016. The case against Addison Lee – the last remaining one – is scheduled for 24 July.
A hearing before the Central Arbitration Comittee brought by IWGB to determine the employment status of Deliveroo riders has been set for 23, 24 and 25 May, and the union has also brought a test case against NHS pathology services provider The Doctor’s Laboratory.